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E-mailbag: Did CBS Use Biased Science? Not Really

We received this e-mail recently from Jon A. about a recent report from correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin, which was the "Inside Story" on the "Evening News" Sept. 23. You can watch the report here:

Here is what Jon A. had to say about it:

"Elizabeth Kaledin did a story on the connection between global warming and recent hurricanes. She quoted two experts who said essentially there is no detectable connection and attributed the hurricanes to a normal cycle of ocean warming. What she failed to do is present the other side of the argument. Two recent studies in major scientific publications (off-hand I believe one was an MIT led study and another I think was British) argued that there was a connection. One study in particular said that the effect of warming was primarily on the severity and not the number of hurricanes. I could accuse CBS of right wing media bias and supporting those who downplay warming. I'd probably be off-base. I'll attribute Kaledin's report more to her failure to Google and contact reputable environmental groups in researching her piece - just as I have failed to give you the cites!"

Kaledin and "Evening News" producers Kevin Finnegan and Susan Schackman respond:
"In addition to the historian Jay Barnes, and our hurricane expert in Miami, we spoke to hurricane researcher Gary Padgett who tracks all the storms. We never said they all dismiss the theory of global warming's role, they just say the science is not there YET to support a definitive link between global warming and recent hurricanes. Even the environmentalists don't have the definitive evidence yet. Padgett also added, if you subscribe to the theory of global warming, then there should be more storms all over the world, and in some places, storms are actually on the decrease! Also, Katrina and Rita did not originate out over the Atlantic Ocean waters in the classic way, they originated quickly over Bermuda.

We tried to speak with MIT researcher Kerry Emanuel whose study I believe the viewer mentions, which indeed found warmer ocean waters and more intense storms in the last few decades. He was unreachable in Spain. He also doesn't dismiss the global warming connection, but agrees that the science isn't there to make a definitive link ... just as we said.

So, we collected a variety of opinions and they all seemed similar ... global warming may play a small role today (and we included that quote) but the predominant thinking on why these monster storms are blowing ashore has much more to do with cyclical natural patterns ... governed by the ocean temperatures. The consensus is that coastal development is THE MAIN FACTOR in the destructiveness of these storms ... NOT global warming.

In an effort to avoid a 'he said she said' kind of story without the science to back up the global warming perspective ... we did not include an 'environmentalist' in the piece. We know how environmental groups view global warming ... we were really interested in collecting the opinions of IMPARTIAL scientists and what we reported was the consensus view among the people we spoke to."